Everything You Need to Know About Soot Damage and Restoration

Soot may not be as noticeable or devastating as water damage, but this fine black substance is still a real problem in many homes. It can gradually accumulate in corners until it causes discoloration, or it can suddenly appear after a fire. If you have soot in your home, you will need to identify the cause and figure out how to remove the soot. Here are some important details about dealing with soot. 

What Is Soot and Why Is It a Problem?

Soot is a mixture of very fine black particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. Soot is different from charcoal and other byproducts of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles. 

The small size of soot is what makes it so dangerous for humans and pets. It can easily be breathed deep into the small passageways of the lungs. Repeated exposure to soot is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer. Because of these problems, soot is more than just an unsightly nuisance. It is a danger that cannot be left in the home. 

How Does Soot Damage Occur?

In the home, the most dramatic incidents of soot are from fire damage. All of the wood, paper, clothing, and other organic and synthetic matter that burns during a house fire can turn into soot, and it may end up settled on all the surfaces throughout a house even if a fire only occurred in one room. 

Though this is typically the most devastating cause of soot damage, even houses that have not been affected by a fire can end up with a soot problem. Soot occurs whenever anything containing hydrocarbons is burnt, so it can be caused by these issues: 

  • Poorly ventilated fireplaces
  • Constant candle usage
  • Defective home furnaces
  • Smoking tobacco or other plant matter indoors
  • Using high temperatures while cooking
  • Proximity to industrial facilities that use combustion-based power sources
  • Exposure to a vehicle's exhaust emissions

What Are the Types of Soot Damage?

Soot composition can vary quite a bit depending on the underlying causes. All types of soot cause at least some darkening, and in severe cases, any type of soot can look completely black. Though most soot looks similar, some types of soot can be harder to clean or more likely to cause intense odors. 

Dry Soot 
Dry soot is caused by very hot fires burning natural ingredients swiftly. It has a dry, dusty texture and almost no smell. Dry soot is often easier to manage than mold or storm damage. In many cases, removing it is as simple as using a vacuum with a HEPA filter on all surfaces. 

Wet Soot 
If a fire smolders for a while on low heat and burns high moisture items, wet soot may be created. This is essentially dry soot that has mingled with steam to create a sort of soggy, sooty mess. Cleaning up wet soot requires a combination of fire damage and water damage strategies. 

Oily Soot 
When plastics, rubbers, and other products containing oil are burned, soot can turn into a sticky, greasy substance. If you try to wipe it up, it will just smear instead of going away.  Also, because it contains oil, it will be resistant to water-based cleaning products. Unlike dry soot, oily soot will cling to any surface, even vertical areas. 

Protein Soot 
Protein-based soot is a particular type of greasy soot that tends to occur as the buildup in kitchens or the product of a kitchen fire. It involves overcooked proteins that turn to soot, and it has a very pungent odor. This type of soot is quite hard to get rid of, and the odor may linger if it is not cleaned up properly. 

What Should You Do About Soot Damage?

When dealing with soot damage, you have a few different options available. 

Dry Clean the Soot 
If you primarily have dry soot in your home, you can use dry cleaning methods to pick up most of the soot. These methods are essentially the same methods you would use for removing dust. A dry cloth can remove soot from tables and furniture, while a vacuum can pick it up off of carpets, upholstery, and flooring. Dry-cleaning will ensure that powdery soot does not smear into a blackened grime. 

This method is a little tedious, so it is normally only recommended for smaller areas of soot. It can be helpful for doing a basic clean up and ensuring the soot does not spread before you can get more help. Keep in mind that if you try a dry-cleaning method and the soot begins to smear, you may need to try a wet cleaning method. 

Wet Clean the Soot 
A wet cleaning method can be effective if you have wet or oily soot. To use this method, combine soap with water to lightly scrub an area with soot. Try testing it in a small area to ensure that it can actually pick up soot without making the mess worse or damage the underlying surface. 

Wet cleaning soot does have some benefits because it can pick up soot that is mixed in with oil or moisture. However, it is quite time-consuming and requires a lot of effort. Another downside of wet cleaning soot methods is that they are only feasible on tile or other waterproof surfaces. Using water to clean drywall, wood, or electronics is not advisable. 

Call In the Professionals 

Though DIY techniques might work for smaller areas of soot, it is not always an option. Significant soot damage to the home can be overwhelming to clean on your own. You may also find that you do not have the right cleaning solutions for removing soot from certain types of surfaces without damaging them. In these sorts of situations, it is probably a good idea to get help from a trusted restoration professional. 
Most companies that clean up fire damage and mold or storm damage also offer professional soot cleaning options. A professional service can help to get rid of any lingering odors and ensure that there are not tiny particles of soot stuck behind that could cause breathing issues. Restoration professionals have the specialized equipment required to thoroughly remove soot from the home. 

Whether you are recovering from a huge house fire or just want to get rid of accumulated soot darkening your walls and ceilings, Paul Davis Restoration can help. Our home restoration and recovery experts have the experience and tools needed to deal with this tricky substance and make your home a soot-free environment.

Commercial Environment Disaster Plan

How to Plan for Disasters in a Commercial Environment

Most people have some type of plan when it comes to disaster preparation and their homes, but have you ever taken the time to think about your commercial working environment? You have just as important items in your office as you do in your home, and the effects of a natural disaster could be devastating to your finances, your security and your overall business. Although you can always hire someone for emergency storm damage restoration services after the fact, there are some things you can do to prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.


Speak With Your Insurance Provider

Waiting until after a disaster strike is not the best strategy for reviewing your commercial insurance coverage. Take some time today or tomorrow to speak with your insurance provider to ensure you have proper coverage related to disasters. You may be able to combine property and liability in one, or you may choose a more comprehensive commercial plan. Your insurance provider can walk you through all the details, so you end up with a policy that covers all the bases.

When you’re looking over insurance options, replacement cost coverage might be something you’ll want to consider. This ensures the cost to replace any property is based off current prices, rather than the cash value of your property minus depreciation. You may also want to consider tenant coverage if you lease or rent your commercial space.


Arrange a Way for Business to Move Along

When disaster strikes, unprepared businesses often have to call it a day or a week or a month. Part of your commercial disaster plan should include steps for maintaining continuity. These steps might include responsibilities for each member of the workforce, a list of biohazard clean up professionals to contact and other steps that can keep your business moving along as usual. You should hold drills that will encourage everyone in the office to understand their roles in the continuity plan.


Always Keep Up on Inventory

Take one day every year to go over all the merchandise in the office so you know what to reorder or replace. While this is a great system for regular business, it may not do much good in the case of a tornado or blizzard. Every aspect of your commercial belongings should be kept track of. This includes equipment, machinery, merchandise, office supplies, office furniture and work vehicles.


Backup All Your Information Off Site

Computer data isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to backing up information. You should also store contact information for employees, vendors, suppliers, customers, tenants and anyone else you do business with on a regular basis. You should have your banking information on file at an off-site location, as well as a copy of your insurance policies and lawyer contact information. A list of that inventory you kept careful track of should also be located off-site.

Speaking of keeping things off-site, your information needs to be far enough away from where you are that it won’t be affected by the same natural disaster your commercial property is hit with. If you live just two miles away from the office, your home is probably not a great place to keep back up information. Look into data protection agencies to find one that can house your information in a safe, secure and distant location.


Get in Touch With Storm Damage Restoration Professionals

After a disaster strikes, you’ll want to be in touch with emergency storm damage restoration professionals. To learn more about what services they provide, contact Paul Davis Reconstruction today at 260-436-7510 and speak with someone who has the experience you need to recover, restore and rebuild after a disaster.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes (And Fix Them If They Do Freeze)

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes (And Fix Them If They Do Freeze)

The winter weather in Northeastern Indiana can be frightful, as freezing temperatures can make you and your family want to stay inside and avoid the cold altogether.

But while you’re trying to stay warm, certain areas of your home may still be exposed to the adverse effects of the elements, including your pipes. This is especially true in older homes with poor insulation.

No matter where you live, a burst pipe can be disastrous to your home. That’s why when temperatures hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, it’s essential to know how to keep your pipes from freezing.



There are a number of ways you can keep your pipes from freezing in the winter. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to add insulation to the areas of your home that are more easily exposed to the cold: attics, crawl spaces, garages and even basements. In particular, you’ll want to focus on those areas of your home with pipes, but the warmer your home is overall, the better.

This is best to have done in the summer or fall before temperatures drop, but if it’s already cold outside and there’s no time to have new insulation installed, don’t panic. There are several tricks you can utilize in order to prevent your pipes from freezing.

  • Open all the doors to your bathrooms, laundry room and basement (assuming you have pipes down there) to increase the areas where warm can circulate in your home.
  • Allow sinks and faucets (especially those connected to exterior walls) to drip because stagnant water has a higher chance of freezing.
  • It’s also a good idea to keep your home well heated during the day and at night, when outside temperatures in the winter tend to be even lower. A good temperature range in the wintertime is 66 – 68 degrees, especially during times when nobody is home or when you and your family are sleeping.



If you realize your pipes are frozen, the first thing you should do is leave the nearest faucet open, even if only a trickle of water is coming out.

Next, you’ll want to put some sort of heating device near the impacted area, whether that be an electric heating pad directly on the pipes or space heater situated as close to them as possible. However, the American Red Cross advises that you do not use a kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or any other device with an open flame.

If you don’t have a heating device, you can also soak warm towels with hot water in another area of your home and then wrap them around the frozen pipes. As the towels get cold, you will have to replace them with freshly soaked warm towels until the pipes are no longer frozen.

If you do this, there’s a solid chance you will keep a pipe from leaking or bursting, which can cause serious damage to your home — even if the water is mostly contained in your basement.


When pipes freeze, the water in them expands and can cause the pipe to leak or even burst. If a bathroom or pipe begins to leak, you’ll want to shut off the water to that pipe and call a plumber.

A burst pipe can be serious, especially if it happens without you realizing it at first. This can cause significant wear and tear to your walls, collapsed floors and ceilings or worse. If a pipe bursts, you’ll want to turn off the main water supply as quickly as possible and get on the phone with professionals to repair the damage done to your pipes and the interior of your home. The faster you act, the better. It’s also worth noting that standing water in your home can lead to health problems for you and your family, as it can cause electric shock and illnesses such as waterborne pathogens and mold.


Are you worried about your pipes? Did a pipe burst? Our professionals here at Paul Davis Restoration are here to help you.   Call  260-436-7510 to speak with someone who has the experience and knowledge you need to protect and fix your home.

How to Save Your Hardwood Flooring After it has been Flooded

It’s no surprise that many property owners are terrified of water damage. Moisture can harm your subfloor and wood flooring, creating soft spots that potentially impair the building’s structure. Even minor water damage can create mold and mildew problems. If your hardwood floors have been involved in a leak or flood, you can take these steps to save them.

Move Quickly

There’s no point in fixing your floors if the moisture continues to mar them. Make sure that you identify and repair the source of moisture as you take steps to save your wood flooring.

The longer you wait to attend to your floors, the worse the damage will become. Wood floors are porous. As they absorb moisture, their fibers swell. This warps the wood and could cause permanent damage.

If you notice flooding or a puddle, dry out the floor as soon as possible. Use an absorbent cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. Then, use a vacuum that is designed to suck up water. Remove as much moisture as possible using the device.

Finally, scrub with a brush and disinfectant to remove dirt. Dirt can encourage mildew growth. Removing it can prevent mold from growing in the future. Finish up with a final vacuuming session.

Repair Options Depend On The Type Of Flooring

Various types of wood can handle different repair methods. Solid hardwood is the most resilient. It is thicker than engineered flooring and can be sanded down to remedy issues with unevenness. Replacing solid hardwood planks is usually easier than swapping out engineered wood slats.

Factory-finished flooring can also be harder to match if you don’t have extra boards lying around. Floors that were finished after laying them in the home may be easier to sand and re-finish for a uniform look.

Refinishing Or Replacing Wood Planks

Strips that have suffered from water damage may be curved. To fix this cupping, you can sand them down. Use a drum or orbital sander to get the boards as flat as possible. This Old House explains how to sand and refinish hardwood floors.

Solid hardwood can withstand losing about 1/4 inch of height. Planks with severe damage may not get completely flat.

Floorboards that have lifted might be able to be nailed down again. If not, you’ll have to replace them. Replacement pieces should match the original wood species. They also need to have a similar grain and texture to blend in well.

For the most seamless finish, consider sanding and refinishing your entire floor. It’s hard to refinish specific spots without obvious lap marks. Even if you’re using the same wood and finish, the old flooring has probably changed in color due to sun damage and regular wear and tear.

A professional restoration specialist can make your floors look like new after they have succumbed to water damage. At Paul Davis, water damage restoration is one of our core specialties. Contact us to find out how we can identify the degree of damage, repair the affected areas and ensure that your room is completely dry.